Saturday, 20 January 2018

International Bomber Command Centre - opening soon

Ready for take-off

'The much-anticipated IBCC at Canwick, Lincoln will open to the public on January 30 and a special opening ceremony is planned for April 12, after six years of planning and construction.'

I am really looking forward to visiting this facility again, especially now the visitor centre is to be accessible to the public.

'Memorials in perspective'
[copyright Geoff Hall - 6 June 2016]

Wartime Training Crash

My paternal uncle, Co-Pilot Sergeant GE Broughton [RAFVR], was a crew member of a Handley Page Halifax Mk 1 [L9574] based at RAF Riccall. On 9th October 1942, he was out on a training flight with the minimum crew permitted, doing basic circuits and landings.

Handley Page Halifax Mk 1 [L9530]
No.76 Conversion Flight
(image courtesy of Luchtoorlog)
During the approach to one of these landings, the port outer engine's propeller sheared taking with it the reduction gear and part of the cowling. The aircraft banked to the left and subsequently stalled. Flying at a low height, the pilot had no time to try and recover the stall and control was lost. As a result, the aircraft crashed into the ground exploding on impact. All on board were killed.

This was the No.1658 Heavy Conversion Unit's first serious accident, having only been formed two days previously, amalgamating No.76 and No.78 Conversion Flights with No.10 Conversion Flight from another airfield. A farm worker Mr GW Buckle, who was working near the crash site tried valiantly to rescue the crew from the burning wreckage. He managed to pull two airmen out, but both were dead. He was commended for brave conduct and Gazetted on 15th January 1945.

The research into this crash was carried out by Aviation Historians Eric Barton, Ken Reast and Albert Pritchard in the mid-1990s. The site was later excavated with permission of the land owner, yet only small parts from the crash were located.

I managed to track down 'Dick' Barton (as he was fondly known) and as a result, my wife and I arranged to meet him at the crash site on 29 Nov 2013.

Thorganby Lodge Farm
MR 105/673401
It was a bitterly cold day and despite his physical limitations, this gentleman still accompanied me to the site. Although I had never known my uncle, it was an emotional moment for me to attend the crash site, especially when Dick kindly gave me a belt buckle and some metalwork from the aircraft found during the excavation.

Rest in Peace

We will remember them

The crew:
  • Pilot - F/O Francis Leach RAFVR (113402), aged 26, of Bolton, Lancashire
  • Co-Pilot - Sgt Geoffrey Eyre Broughton RAFVR (1311939), aged 21, of Woodsmoor, Stockport
  • Flight Engineer - Sgt Alexander Howard Isaac RAFVR (1190773), aged 31, of Exeter
  • Air Gunner - Sgt George Buckland RAFVR (1320255), aged 19, of East Grinstead

Further Information

"When the war broke out, the UK had two projects of 'strategic' bombers on the table - the Short Stirling and the Handley Page Halifax.

The Halifax was designed in response to Air Ministry Specification B.12/36, issued in May1936, calling for an all-metal, four engine, mid-wing monoplane. Handley Page submitted its design (H.P.57) and the Air ministry ordered two prototypes, L7244 and L7245, in April 1937. L7244 was intended to be a pure test airframe and L7245 would be fully equipped for complete service trials. While studies were underway, an order for 100 Halifax Mk 1s was placed in January 1938 with the serials as follows: L9495-L9534, L9560-L9584, L9600-L9624.

After one year of testing, the first production Halifax Mk 1 flew on October 1940. The Mark received constant improvement and, under the denomination of Halifax Mk 1, 85 aircraft in three series were produced."

My Uncle Geoff's aircraft was a Series 2. Only 25 in total were delivered between June 1941 and September 1941. The Series 2 had a strengthened structure allowing a new maximum take-off weight of 60,000 lb instead of 55,000 lb. They were also equipped with Vickers K-guns mounted in pairs to fire on the beam through side hatches amidships, so as to cover blind spots hidden from the nose and tail turrets' field of fire by the wing and tail unit.

"Of the new Heavy Conversion Units formed in January 1942, No 1652 would remain the main operator of Halifax Mk 1 over the next few months, but some Mk 1s found their way to No. 1658 HCU and N0. 1659 HCU (RCAF).

A number of Halifax Mk 1 accidents were recorded with the first being as early as 6 January 1942 (four days after the formation of the HCU). Eleven more followed in the next 18 months and took the lives of sixteen airmen.

By mid-1943, the few Halifax Mk 1s still flying were weary and, as the subsequent Marks became increasingly available, the aircraft were progressively withdrawn from use."

Source: The Handley Page Halifax Mk.1 by Phil H. Listemann

Summary of the Handley Page Halifax

Summary of No. 1658 Heavy Conversion Unit

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